Polish–Soviet War

The Polish–Soviet War[N 1] (14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921) was fought by the Second Polish Republic and Soviet Russia in the aftermath of World War I, on territories formerly held by the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In newly independent (from November 1918) Poland, leading politicians of different orientations pursued the general expectation of restoring the pre-1772 (First Partition of Poland) borders. Motivated by that idea, Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski aimed to expand Poland's eastern frontiers (actual borders had yet to be determined) to the east and began moving troops in that direction.

Polish–Soviet War
Part of East European military campaigns that included the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War, the Polish–Ukrainian War and Lithuanian Wars of Independence

  • Top left: Renault FT tanks of the Polish 1st Tank Regiment during the Battle of Dyneburg, January 1920
  • Below top left: Polish and Ukrainian troops in Khreshchatyk during the Kiev Offensive, 7 May 1920
  • Top right: Polish Schwarzlose M.07/12 machine gun nest during the Battle of Radzymin, August 1920
  • Middle: Polish defences with a machine gun position near Miłosna, in the village of Janki, Battle of Warsaw, August 1920
  • Bottom left: Russian prisoners following the Battle of Warsaw
  • Bottom right: Polish defences in Belarus during the Battle of the Niemen River, September 1920
Date14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921 (2 years, 1 month and 4 days)
  • Peace of Riga signed on 18 March 1921
Central and Eastern Europe
Result Polish victory; Peace of Riga
(See Aftermath)
  • Poland took control of modern-day western Ukraine and western Belarus (Kresy in interwar Poland).
  • Soviet forces took control of modern-day eastern Ukraine and East Belarus.
 Russian SFSR
 Byelorussian SSR
 Ukrainian SSR
Logistical support:
Belarusian PR
 Latvia[lower-alpha 1]
Ukrainian PR[lower-alpha 2]
Commanders and leaders
Leon Trotsky
Sergey Kamenev
Joseph Stalin
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Semyon Budyonny
August Kork
Nikolai Sollogub
Alexander Yegorov
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Józef Piłsudski
Józef Haller
Franciszek Latinik
T. Jordan-Rozwadowski
Władysław Sikorski
Leonard Skierski
Edward Rydz-Śmigły
Symon Petlyura
Early 1919: ~50,000[1]
Summer 1920:
Early 1919: ~80,000[3]
Summer 1920:
Casualties and losses
Estimated 67,000–70,000 killed[5]
80,000–157,000 taken prisoner[6][7] (including rear-area personnel)
About 47,000 killed[8][9][10]
113,518 wounded[9]
51,351 taken prisoner[9]

On 13 November 1918, Vladimir Lenin's Russia annulled the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and soon started slowly moving forces in the western direction, to recover and secure the lands, vacated by the German forces, that were lost by the Russian state under the treaty. The first Polish-Soviet skirmishes occurred in mid-February 1919. That year, while the Red Army was still preoccupied with the Russian Civil War, the Polish Army took most of Lithuania and Belarus. Lenin saw Poland as the bridge the Red Army had to cross to assist other communist movements and to bring about more European revolutions.

By July 1919, Polish forces had taken control of much of Western Ukraine and emerged victorious from the Polish–Ukrainian War. The West Ukrainian People's Republic, led by Yevhen Petrushevych, was an attempt to establish a Ukrainian state on territories to which both Poles and Ukrainians laid claim.

In the Russian part of Ukraine, Symon Petliura tried to defend the Ukrainian People's Republic, but as the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the civil war, they advanced westward towards the disputed Ukrainian lands and made Petliura's forces retreat. Reduced to a small amount of territory in the west, Petliura was compelled to seek an alliance with Piłsudski, which was officially formed in April 1920.

Piłsudski believed that the best way for Poland to secure favorable borders was by military action and that he could easily defeat the Red Army forces. His Kiev Offensive, considered to have begun the Polish–Soviet War sensu stricto, commenced in late April 1920 and resulted in the takeover of Kiev by the Polish and allied Ukrainian forces on 7 May. The weaker in the area Soviet armies had not been defeated, as they avoided major confrontations and withdrew.

The Polish offensive was met by successful counterattacks by the Red Army, from 5 June on the southern Ukrainian front and from 4 July on the northern front. The Soviet operation pushed the Polish forces back westward all the way to Warsaw, the Polish capital, while the Directorate of Ukraine fled to Western Europe. Fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German borders increased the interest and involvement of the Western powers in the war. In mid-summer, the fall of Warsaw seemed certain, but in mid-August, the tide had turned again after the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. In the wake of the eastward Polish advance that followed, the Soviets sued for peace, and the war ended with a ceasefire on 18 October 1920.

The Peace of Riga, signed on 18 March 1921, divided the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. The war and the treaty negotiations determined the Soviet–Polish border for the rest of the interwar period. Poland's eastern border was established at about 200 km east of the Curzon Line, a British proposal for Poland's border, previously approved by the Entente leaders as the limit of Poland's expansion in the eastern direction. Ukraine and Belarus became divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, which established the respective Soviet republics in its parts.

The peace negotiations, on the Polish side conducted chiefly by Piłsudski's opponents and against his will, ended with the official recognition of the two Soviet republics, which became parties to the treaty. This outcome and the new border agreed on precluded any possibility of the formation of the Intermarium Polish-led federation of states that Piłsudski had planned for or of meeting his other eastern policy goals. The Soviet Union later used the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Republic to claim their unification with parts of the Kresy territories where East Slavic people outnumbered ethnic Poles and which had remained, after the Peace of Riga, on the Polish side of the border, lacking any form of autonomy.

Names and dates

The war is known by several names. "Polish–Soviet War" is the most common but other names include "Russo–Polish War" (or "Polish–Russian War")[N 2] and "Polish–Bolshevik War".[11] This last term (or just "Bolshevik War" (Polish: Wojna bolszewicka)) is most common in Polish sources. In some Polish sources it is also referred as the "War of 1920" (Polish: Wojna 1920 roku).[N 3]

There is disagreement over the dates of the war. The Encyclopædia Britannica begins its article with the date range 1919–1920 but then states, "Although there had been hostilities between the two countries during 1919, the conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Piłsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (21 April 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on 7 May."[N 2] The Polish encyclopaedia Internetowa encyklopedia PWN,[11] as well as some Western historians including Norman Davies, consider 1919 the starting year of the war.[12]

The ending date is given as either 1920 or 1921; this confusion stems from the fact that while the cease-fire was put into force on 18 October 1920, the official treaty ending the war was signed on 18 March 1921. While the events of 1919 can be described as a border conflict, and only in early 1920 did both sides engage in an all-out war, the conflicts that took place in 1920 were an escalation of the fighting that began a year earlier.[12]


Partitions of Poland in 1795: the coloured territories show the extent of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth just before the First Partition. The land absorbed by the Kingdom of Prussia is in blue (north-west), by the Austrian Monarchy in green (south) and by the Russian Empire in red (east).

The war's main territories of contention lie in what is now Ukraine and Belarus. Until the mid-13th century, they formed part of the medieval state of Kievan Rus'. After a period of internal wars and the 1240 Mongol invasion, the lands became objects of expansion for the Kingdom of Poland and for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the first half of the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Kiev and the land between the Dnieper, Pripyat, and Daugava (Western Dvina) rivers became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in 1352, Poland and Lithuania divided the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia between themselves. In 1569, in accordance with the terms of the Union of Lublin between Poland and Lithuania, some of the Ukrainian lands passed to the Polish Crown. Between 1772 and 1795, many of the Eastern Slavic territories became part of the Russian Empire in the course of the Partitions of Poland. In 1795 (the Third Partition of Poland), Poland lost formal independence. After the Congress of Vienna of 1814–1815, much of the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw was transferred to Russian control and became the autonomous Congress Poland (officially the Kingdom of Poland).[13] After young Poles refused conscription to the Imperial Russian Army during the January Uprising of 1863, Tsar Alexander II stripped Congress Poland of its separate constitution, attempted to force general use of the Russian language, took away vast tracts of land from Poles and incorporated Poland more directly into Russia by dividing it into ten provinces, each with an appointed Russian military governor and all under the complete control of the Russian Governor-General at Warsaw.[14][15]

In November 1918, Poland became a sovereign state. Among the several border wars fought by the Second Polish Republic was the successful Greater Poland uprising (1918–1919) against Germany. The historic Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth included vast territories in the east. They had been incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1772–1795 and had remained its parts, as the Northwest Territory, until World War I.[16] After the war they were contested by the Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, and Latvian interests.

After the end of World War I in 1918, the map of Central and Eastern Europe changed drastically.[17] The German Empire's defeat rendered obsolete Berlin's plans for the creation of Eastern European German-dominated states (Mitteleuropa), which included another rendition of the Kingdom of Poland.[18] The Russian Empire collapsed, which resulted in the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The Russian state lost territory due to the German World War I offensive and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed by the emergent Soviet Russia. Several nations of the region saw a chance for independence and seized their opportunity to gain it.[17] With the defeat of Germany in the west and the withdrawal of German forces in the east, Soviet Russia disavowed the treaty and proceeded to recover many of the former territories of Russia.[19] However, preoccupied with the civil war, it did not have the resources to react swiftly to the national rebellions.[19] The Paris Peace Conference (1919–1920) had not made a definitive ruling in regard to Poland's eastern border, but it issued a provisional boundary in December 1919, known as the Curzon Line. It was an attempt to define the areas that had an "indisputably Polish ethnic majority".[20] Piłsudski and his allies blamed Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski for this outcome and caused his dismissal. Paderewski, embittered, withdrew from politics.[21]

Map of areas where Polish was used as a primary language in 1916
Re-establishment of the Polish state, March 1919

With the collapse of the Russian and German occupying authorities, virtually all of Poland's neighbours began fighting over borders and other issues. Finnish Civil War, Estonian War of Independence, Latvian War of Independence, and Lithuanian Wars of Independence had all been fought in the Baltic Sea region.[22] Russia was overwhelmed by domestic struggles, and communist uprisings took place in Germany and Hungary.[23] Winston Churchill, in a conversation with Prime Minister David Lloyd George, commented sarcastically: "The war of giants has ended, the wars of the pygmies begin."[24][25] The Polish–Soviet War was the longest lasting of the international engagements.

The territory of what became Poland had been a major battleground during World War I and the new country lacked political stability. It had won the difficult conflict against the West Ukrainian People's Republic by July 1919 but had already become embroiled in new conflicts with Germany (the 1919–1921 Silesian Uprisings) and the January 1919 border conflict with Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, Soviet Russia focused on thwarting the counterrevolution and the 1918–1925 intervention by the Allied powers. The first clashes between Polish and Soviet forces occurred in February 1919, but it took over a year for a full-scale war to develop.[12]

From late 1919, the leader of Russia's new Bolshevik government, Vladimir Lenin, encouraged by the Red Army's civil war victories over the White Russian anti-communist forces and their Western allies, began to envision the future of world revolution with greater optimism. The Bolsheviks proclaimed the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat and agitated for a worldwide communist community. They intended to link the revolution in Russia with a revolution in Germany they had hoped for and to assist other communist movements in Europe. To be able to provide direct physical support to revolutionaries in the West, the Red Army would have to cross the territory of Poland.[26][27][28][29]

Lenin aimed to regain control of the territories abandoned by Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 and to set up Soviet governments in the emerging countries in the western parts of the former Russian Empire. The more ambitious goal was to also reach Germany, where he expected a socialist revolution to break out. He believed that Soviet Russia could not survive without the support of a socialist Germany.[26] By the end of summer 1919, the Soviets had taken over most of Ukraine and driven the Directorate of Ukraine from Kiev. In February 1919, they set up the Lithuanian–Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel). The government there was very unpopular because of the terror it had imposed and the collection of food and goods for the army.[26] Officially, the Soviet government denied charges of trying to invade Europe.[30]

As the Polish–Soviet War progressed, particularly while Poland's Kiev Offensive was being repelled in June 1920, Soviet policymakers, including Lenin, increasingly saw the war as the opportunity to spread the revolution westward.[26][28][31] According to the historian Richard Pipes, the Soviets had prepared for their own strike against Poland already before the Polish Kiev Offensive.[28]

In newly independent Poland politics were strongly influenced by Chief of State (naczelnik państwa) Józef Piłsudski.[32] He had wanted to break up the Russian Empire and set up a Polish-led Intermarium federation of nominally independent states: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and other Central and East European countries that emerged from the crumbling empires after World War I.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39] He had hoped that the new union would become a counterweight to any potential imperialist intentions of Russia or Germany.[40] Piłsudski believed that there could be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine, thus his main interest was in splitting Ukraine from Russia.[41][42] He did not hesitate to use military force to expand the Polish borders in Galicia and Volhynia and crush a Ukrainian attempt at self-determination in the disputed territories east of the Southern Bug River, which contained a significant Polish minority.[26] Speaking of Poland's future frontiers, Piłsudski said, "All that we can gain in the west depends on the Entente – on the extent to which it may wish to squeeze Germany". In the east, he said, "There are doors that open and close, and it depends on who forces them open and how far".[43] The Polish forces had thus set out to expand far in the eastern direction. Piłsuski had no intention of joining the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War,[26] because he considered the Whites' Russian imperial designs more threatening to Poland than those of the Bolsheviks. As Piłsudski imagined, "Closed within the boundaries of the 16th century, cut off from the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, deprived of land and mineral wealth of the South and South-east, Russia could easily move into the status of second-grade power. Poland, as the largest and strongest of the new states, could easily establish a sphere of influence stretching from Finland to the Caucasus".[44]

Piłsudski's ideas appeared progressive and democratic in comparison with the rival National Democracy's idea of Polonization of the disputed eastern lands, but he used his "federation" idea instrumentally. As he wrote to his close associate Leon Wasilewski in April 1919, (for now) "I want to be neither an imperialist nor a federalist. ... Taking into account that, in this God's world, an empty talk of the brotherhood of people and nations as well as the American little doctrines seem to be winning, I gladly side with the federalists".[45]

Preliminary conflicts

From late 1917, Polish revolutionary military units were formed in Russia. They were combined into the Western Rifle Division in October 1918. In summer 1918, a short-lived Polish communist government, led by Stefan Heltman, was established in Moscow. Both the military and civilian structures were meant to facilitate the eventual introduction of communism into Poland in the form of a Polish Soviet Republic.

Polish intelligence

Before the war, Jan Kowalewski, a polyglot and amateur cryptologist, had managed to break the codes and ciphers of the army of the West Ukrainian People's Republic and, during his service in the Polish–Ukrainian War, of General Anton Denikin's White Russian forces. In July 1919 he was transferred to Warsaw, where he became chief of the Polish General Staff's radio intelligence department. By early September, he had gathered a group of mathematicians from Warsaw University and Lwów University (most notably the founders of the Polish School of Mathematics – Stanisław Leśniewski, Stefan Mazurkiewicz and Wacław Sierpiński), who succeeded in breaking the Soviet Russian ciphers as well. The decoded information presented to Piłsudski showed that the Soviet peace proposals made in 1919 were fake and that the Soviets had really prepared for a new offensive against Poland and concentrated military forces in Barysaw. Piłsudski decided to ignore the Soviet proposals, sign an alliance with Symon Petliura of the Ukrainian People's Republic and prepare the Kiev Offensive. During the Polish–Soviet War, the Polish decryption of Red Army radio messages made it possible to use Polish military forces efficiently against Soviet Russian forces and to win many individual battles, most importantly the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.[46][47][48]


Five stages in Polish–Soviet War

Beginnings of the Polish–Soviet conflict

On 5 January 1919 the Red Army took Vilnius, which led to the establishment of the Litbel Soviet republic (February 28).[16][22] In February, Polish troops marched east to face the Soviets; the new Polish parliament declared the need to liberate "the northeast provinces of Poland with their capital in Wilno".[16] The Battle of Bereza Kartuska, a Polish–Soviet armed confrontation, took place around 14 February near Byaroza, Belarus.[12][49][11][26] By late February, the Soviet westward advance had come to a halt.

Polish propaganda poster showing Polish cavalry and a Bolshevik soldier with the caption: "Beat the Bolshevik"

In early March 1919, Polish units crossed the Neman River, took Pinsk, and reached the outskirts of Lida. The Soviet and Polish advances began around the same time in April (the Polish forces started a major offensive on 16 April),[11] and the number of troops in the area kept increasing. In April, the Red Army captured Grodno, but was soon pushed out by a Polish counteroffensive. Unable to accomplish its objectives and facing intensified combat with the White forces elsewhere, the Red Army withdrew from its positions and reorganised. As the Polish forces continued a steady eastern advance,[11] they took Lida on 17 April,[11] Nowogródek on 18 April, and captured Vilnius on 21 April, which drove the Litbel government from its proclaimed capital.[16][26]

Fighting the Polish–Ukrainian War, in July Polish armies eliminated the West Ukrainian People's Republic,[21] which allowed the Polish command to shift some of the forces used there to the northern front.

Polish forces took Minsk on 8 August,[11] and on 28 August they deployed tanks for the first time. After heavy fighting, the town of Babruysk, near the Berezina River, was captured.[11] By 2 September, Polish units reached the Daugava River. Afterwards, they secured the region from the Desna River to Daugavpils (Dyneburg).

Polish advances continued until early 1920.[11] Sporadic battles erupted between Polish forces and the Red Army, but the latter was preoccupied with fighting the Whites and steadily retreated on the entire western front from Latvia in the north to Ukraine in the south. In early summer 1919, the White movement had gained the initiative and its forces, under the command of Anton Denikin, marched on Moscow. Piłsudski was aware that the Soviets were not friends of independent Poland and considered war with Soviet Russia inevitable,[50] but he underestimated the strength of the Bolsheviks.[51] He thought he could get a better deal for Poland from the Bolsheviks than from the Whites,[52] who represented, in his opinion, the old Russian imperial policies, hostile to strong Poland and Ukraine independent from Russia, which was essential for his plans.[53] The Bolsheviks had proclaimed the partitions of Poland to be invalid and declared their support for self-determination of the Polish nation.[54][55] Piłsudski thus speculated that Poland would be better off with the Bolsheviks, who were alienated from the Western powers, than with the restored Russian Empire and its partnership with Western politics.[52][56] He considered the Whites a greater danger to Poland than the Bolsheviks.[51]

By his refusal to join the attack on Lenin's struggling government, he ignored strong pressure from the Triple Entente leaders and possibly saved the Bolshevik government in summer to fall 1919,[57] although a full-scale attack by the Poles to support Denikin would not have been possible.[58] Piłsudski later wrote that a White victory would have gained Poland no more than the "ethnic border" in the east, the Curzon Line.

Central and Eastern Europe in December 1919

Several unsuccessful attempts at peace negotiations were made by the Polish and Russian sides in the winter of 1919–1920.[11] Polish–Lithuanian relations had worsened, as Polish politicians found the Lithuanian demands for certain territories, especially the city of Vilnius, hard to accept. Vilnius had a Polish ethnic majority but was regarded by Lithuanians as their historic capital.[59] Polish negotiators made better progress with the Latvian Provisional Government, and in late 1919 and early 1920, Polish and Latvian forces conducted joint operations against Soviet Russia. The Latvian government requested and obtained Polish help in capturing Daugavpils. The city's Soviet defenses fell after heavy fighting at the Battle of Daugavpils in early January and the town was handed over to the Latvians.[60] By March, the Polish forces had driven a wedge between Soviet forces to the north (Belarus) and south (Ukraine). The Polish forces had slowly but steadily advanced eastward until April.

The fighting in 1919 resulted in the formation of a very long frontline, which, according to the historian Eugeniusz Duraczyński, at this stage favored Poland.[51]

In late 1919 and early 1920, Piłsudski undertook his gargantuan task of breaking up Russia and creating the Intermarium bloc of countries.[61][62] Given Lithuania's early refusal to participate in the project, he set his sights on Ukraine.[61]

Piłsudski's alliance with Petliura

Polish General Antoni Listowski (left) and Ukrainian leader Symon Petliura, allied with Poland

The Treaty of Warsaw, Piłsudski's agreement with the exiled Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura, was signed on 21 April 1920 and was a major success, opening for Poland new opportunities. Petliura, who formally represented the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic, which had de facto been defeated by the Bolsheviks, fled with some Ukrainian troops to Poland, where he found political asylum. His control extended only to a sliver of land near the Polish-controlled areas.[63] Petliura had therefore little choice but to accept the Polish offer of alliance, largely on Polish terms, despite the recent armed conflict between the two nations that was won by the Poles.[64]

By concluding an agreement with Piłsudski, Petliura accepted the Polish territorial gains in Western Ukraine and the future Polish–Ukrainian border along the Zbruch River. In exchange, he was promised independence for Ukraine and Polish military assistance in reinstating his government in Kiev.[26]

For Piłsudski, the alliance gave his campaign for the Intermarium federation an actual starting point and potentially the most important federation partner, secured part of the Polish eastern border and laid a foundation for a Polish-dominated Ukrainian state between Russia and Poland.[64] For Petliura, it was the final chance to preserve the Ukrainian statehood and at least a theoretical independence of the Ukrainian heartlands, despite his acceptance of the loss of West Ukrainian lands to Poland.

Both leaders encountered strong opposition in their respective countries. Piłsudski faced stiff opposition from Roman Dmowski's National Democrats, who opposed Ukrainian independence. Petliura was criticised by many Ukrainian politicians for entering a pact with the Poles and for abandoning Western Ukraine.[31][65][66]

The alliance with Petlura gave Poland 15,000 allied Ukrainian troops at the beginning of the Kiev campaign,[67] which increased to 35,000 by recruitment and from Soviet deserters during the war.[67]

Polish forces

The Polish Army was made up of soldiers who had served in the armies of the partitioning empires, as well as many new enlistees and volunteers. It was supported by some international volunteers, such as the Kościuszko Squadron.[68] Boris Savinkov was at the head of an army of 20,000 to 30,000 largely-Russian prisoners-of-war and was accompanied by Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius. The Polish forces grew from approximately 100,000 in 1918 to over 500,000 in early 1920.[69] In August 1920, the Polish Army had reached a total strength of 737,767 soldiers, half of whom were on the frontline. Soviet losses allowed rough numerical parity between the two armies, and during the Battle of Warsaw the Poles may have had gained a slight advantage in numbers and logistics.[4] One of the major formations on the Polish side was the First Polish Army.

Red Army

According to Norman Davies, estimating strength of the opposing sides is difficult, and even generals often had incomplete reports of their own forces.[70]

By early 1920, the Red Army had been very successful against the White movement.[38] They defeated Denikin and signed peace treaties with Latvia and Estonia. The Polish front had become their most important war theatre and had the most Soviet resources and forces diverted to it. In January 1920, the Red Army began concentrating forces along the Berezina River.[49]

When the Poles launched their Kiev offensive, the southwestern front had about 82,847 Soviet soldiers, including 28,568 front-line troops. The Poles had some numerical superiority, which was estimated from 12,000 to 52,000 personnel.[70] During the Soviet counter-offensive in mid-1920, the situation had been reversed: the Soviets numbered about 790,000, at least 50,000 more than the Poles. Mikhail Tukhachevsky estimated that he had 160,000 combat ready soldiers, and Piłsudski estimated the enemy's forces at 200,000–220,000.[71]

Mikhail Kalinin and Leon Trotsky greet the Red Army troops

In 1920, Red Army personnel numbered 402,000 on the western front and 355,000 on the southwestern front in Galicia, according to Davies.[2] Grigoriy Krivosheev gives similar numbers, with 382,071 personnel for the western front and 282,507 personnel for the southwestern front between July and August.[72]

Davies shows the growth of Red Army forces on the Polish front in early 1920:[73]

1 January 1920 – 4 infantry divisions, 1 cavalry brigade
1 February 1920 – 5 infantry divisions, 5 cavalry brigades
1 March 1920 – 8 infantry divisions, 4 cavalry brigades
1 April 1920 – 14 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry brigades
15 April 1920 – 16 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry brigades
25 April 1920 – 20 infantry divisions, 5 cavalry brigades

Among the commanders leading the Red Army offensive were Semyon Budyonny, Leon Trotsky, Mikhail Tukhachevsky (the new commander of the western front), Alexander Yegorov (the new commander of the southwestern front) and Joseph Stalin.

Logistics and plans

Logistics were very bad for both armies and were supported by whatever equipment was left over from World War I or could be captured. The Polish Army, for example, used guns made in five countries and rifles manufactured in six, each of which used different ammunition.[74] The Soviets had many military depots at their disposal that were left by the withdrawing German armies in 1918–1919 and modern French armaments that were captured in great numbers from the White Russians and the Allied expeditionary forces during the Russian Civil War. Still, they suffered a shortage of arms, and both the Red Army and the Polish forces were grossly underequipped by Western standards.[74]

From early 1920, both the Polish and Soviet sides had prepared for decisive confrontations. However, Lenin and Trotsky had not yet been able to dispose of all the White forces, including especially the army of Pyotr Wrangel, threatening them from the south. Piłsudski, unconstrained by such limitations, was able to attack first.[51] The plan for the Kiev Expedition was to beat the Red Army on Poland's southern flank and to install the pro-Polish Petliura government in Ukraine.[26]

Victor Sebestyen, author of a 2017 biography of Lenin, wrote: "The newly independent Poles started the war. With England and France's backing, they invaded Ukraine in spring 1920." Some Allied leaders had not supported Poland, including former British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who called the Kiev Expedition "a purely aggressive adventure, a wanton enterprise". Sebestyen characterized Piłsudski as a "Polish nationalist, not a socialist".[75]

Kiev Offensive

Polish Kiev Offensive at its height, June 1920

On 24 April, Poland commenced its main undertaking, the Kiev Offensive. Its stated goal was the creation of a formally independent Ukraine,[26] which would become part of Piłsudski's project of Intermarium. Polish forces were assisted by 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers under Petliura, who represented the Ukrainian People's Republic.[67]

On 26 April, in his "Call to the People of Ukraine", Piłsudski told his intended audience that "the Polish Army would only stay as long as necessary until a legal Ukrainian government took control over its own territory".[76] However, many Ukrainians were just as anti-Polish as anticommunist[31] and resented the Polish advance.[26]

Vladimir Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Soviet Russia, delivers a speech to motivate troops to fight in the Polish–Soviet War on 5 May 1920

The Polish 3rd Army had easily won border clashes with the Red Army in Ukraine, but the Reds withdrew with minimal losses. The combined Polish–Ukrainian forces encountered only token resistance as they entered Kiev, largely abandoned by the Soviet military, on 7 May.[26]

This Polish thrust was met with Red Army counterattacks from 29 May.[11] The Polish forces in the area prepared for an offensive towards Zhlobin, but managed only to hold their ground. In the north, the Poles had fared much worse. The Polish 1st Army was defeated and forced to retreat by the Russian 15th Army, which recaptured territories between the Western Dvina and the Berezina Rivers. Polish forces attempted to take advantage of the exposed flanks of the attackers, but they failed to stop the Soviet advance. In late May, the front had stabilised near the Auta River and the Soviets began preparing for their next push.

Polish troops in Kiev

On 24 May 1920, the Polish armies in the south were engaged for the first time by Semyon Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army (Konarmia). Repeated attacks by Budyonny's Cossacks broke the Polish–Ukrainian front on 5 June.[11] The Soviets deployed mobile cavalry units to disrupt the Polish rearguard and target communications and logistics. By 10 June, the Polish armies were in retreat along the entire front. On 13 June, the Polish, along with Petliura's Ukrainian troops, abandoned Kiev to the Red Army.

Soviet victories

On 9 May 1920, the Soviet newspaper Pravda printed an article "Go West!" (Russian: На Запад!): "Through the corpse of White Poland lies the way to the World Inferno. On bayonets, we will carry happiness and peace to working humanity".[77] On 30 May 1920, General Aleksei Brusilov, the last tsarist commander-in-chief, published in Pravda an appeal "To all former officers, wherever they may be", encouraging them to forgive past grievances and join the Red Army.[78] Brusilov considered it a patriotic duty of all Russian officers to enlist with the Bolshevik government, which he thought to be defending Russia against foreign invaders. Lenin also understood the importance of the appeal to Russian nationalism. The Central Committee had thus called on the "respected citizens of Russia" to defend the Soviet republic against a Polish usurpation. The Soviet Russia's counteroffensive was indeed boosted by Brusilov's involvement: 14,000 officers and over 100,000 deserters enlisted in or returned to the Red Army and thousands of civilian volunteers also contributed to the war effort.[79]

The commander of the Polish 3rd Army in Ukraine, General Edward Rydz-Śmigły, wanted to break through the Soviet lines and move in the northwestern direction. The Polish forces in Ukraine managed to withdraw relatively unscathed but remained tied down in the Kiev area. They could not support the Polish northern front and reinforce, as planned by Piłsudski, the defences at the Auta River for the decisive battle there.[80]

Polish Breguet 14 operating from Kiev airfield

Poland's 320 km (200 mi) front was manned by a thin line of 120,000 troops, backed by some 460 artillery pieces, with no strategic reserves. This approach to holding ground harked back to the World War I practice of establishing a fortified line of defense. Poland's eastern front, however, bore little resemblance to that war's conditions, as it was weakly manned, supported with inadequate artillery, and had almost no fortifications. Such arrangement allowed the Soviets to attain numerical superiority at strategically crucial locations.[80]

Soviet offensive successes, early August 1920

Against the Polish line, the Red Army gathered its northwestern front led by the young General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Its numbers exceeded 108,000 infantry and 11,000 cavalry, supported by 722 artillery pieces and 2,913 machine guns.[80]

Tukhachevsky launched his offensive on 4 July along the Smolensk–Brest-Litovsk axis and crossed the Auta and the Berezina Rivers.[11] The northern 3rd Cavalry Corps, led by Hayk Bzhishkyan, enveloped the Polish forces from the north and moved near the Lithuanian and Prussian border. The 4th, 15th and 3rd Armies pushed to the west, supported from the south by the 16th Army and the Mozyr Group. For three days, the outcome of the battle hung in the balance, but by 7 July the Polish forces were in full retreat along the entire front.[80]

American volunteer pilots, Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy, fought in Kościuszko's Squadron of the Polish Air Force

Polish resistance was offered again on the line of old German trenches and fortifications from World War I; it presented an opportunity to stem the Red Army offensive, but there were too few Polish troops. The Soviet forces found a weakly defended part of the front and broke through. Bzhishkyan's and Lithuanian forces captured Vilnius on 14 July, which forced the Poles into retreat again.[80] To the south, in eastern Galicia, General Budyonny's cavalry advanced far into the Polish rear, captured Brody and approached Lwów and Zamość. It had become clear to the Poles that the Soviet objectives were not limited to pushing their borders westward but that Poland's very independence was at stake.[81]

The Soviet forces moved toward the west at a remarkable speed. Grodno fell on 19 July and Brest-Litovsk on 1 August. The Poles attempted to defend the Bug River line with the 4th Army and Grupa Poleska units but they delayed the Red Army's advance for only one week. After crossing the Narew River on 2 August, the northwestern front was only 97 kilometres (60 mi) from Warsaw.[80] The Brest-Litovsk fortress, which became the headquarters of the planned Polish counteroffensive, fell to the 16th Army in the first attack. The southwestern front pushed the Polish forces out of Ukraine. Stalin disobeyed Alexander Yegorov's orders and directed his forces to close on Zamość and Lwów, the largest city in southeastern Poland and garrison of the Polish 6th Army.[80] The siege of Lwów soon began. Stalin's action created a hole in the lines of the Red Army, but also opened the way to the Polish capital. Five Soviet armies approached Warsaw.

Polish fighters of the Kościuszko Squadron

The Polish forces near Lwów launched a successful counterattack. The Polish retreat on the southern front had stopped, but the worsening situation near the Polish capital prevented the Poles from continuing their southern counteroffensive. Forces were mustered to take part in the approaching Battle of Warsaw.[82]

Diplomatic front

The initial success of the Kiev Expedition caused enormous euphoria in Poland and Piłsudski's leading role was recognized by most politicians. However, with the tide turning against Poland, Piłsudski's political power weakened, and that of his opponents, including Dmowski, rose. Piłsudski regained his influence, especially over the military, as the Soviet forces approached Warsaw. The political scene had begun to unravel in panic, with the government of Leopold Skulski resigning in early June.

As the Soviet armies advanced, the Soviet leadership's confidence soared. In a telegram, Lenin exclaimed, "We must direct all our attention to preparing and strengthening the Western Front. A new slogan must be announced: 'Prepare for war against Poland'".[83] The Soviet communist theorist Nikolai Bukharin, writing for the newspaper Pravda, wished for the resources to carry the campaign beyond Warsaw, "right up to London and Paris".[84] Tukhachevsky's order of the day on 2 July 1920 read: "The path to the world conflagration passes over the corpse of Poland. On Vilno-Minsk-Warsaw march!"[80] and "onward to Berlin over the corpse of Poland!".[26]

The increasing hope of certain victory, however, gave rise to political intrigues among Soviet commanders.[85]

General Józef Haller (touching the flag) and his Blue Army

Sponsored by the Soviets, the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee (Polish: Tymczasowy Komitet Rewolucyjny Polski, TKRP) was formed in July in Białystok to organise the administration of Polish territories captured by the Red Army.[26] The TKRP found little support in Soviet-controlled Poland.[31]

At the height of the Polish–Soviet conflict, Jews were subjected to antisemitic violence by Polish forces, who considered them a potential threat and often accused of supporting the Bolsheviks.[86][87] During the Battle of Warsaw, the Polish authorities interned Jewish soldiers and volunteers and sent them to an internment camp.[88][89]

In early July 1920, Polish Prime Minister Władysław Grabski travelled to the Spa Conference in Belgium to request Allied assistance for Poland.[90] The Allied representatives were largely unresponsive to Polish demands.[90] Grabski signed an agreement containing several terms: Polish forces would withdraw to the Curzon Line, which delineated Poland's eastern ethnographic frontier and was published by the Allies in December 1919; Poland would participate in a subsequent peace conference; and the questions of sovereignty over Vilnius, Eastern Galicia, Cieszyn Silesia and Danzig would be left up to the Allies.[90] Vague promises of Allied support were made in exchange.[90]

Bolshevik propaganda poster of the Polish–Soviet War

On 11 July 1920, the British government sent a telegram to the Soviets that was signed by George Curzon and has been described as a de facto ultimatum.[91] It requested the Soviets to halt their offensive at the Curzon Line and to accept it as a temporary border with Poland until a permanent border could be established in negotiations.[26] In case of a Soviet refusal, the British threatened to assist Poland with all means available.[92] On 17 July, the Bolsheviks refused and made a counteroffer to negotiate a peace treaty directly with Poland.[26] The British government responded by threatening to cut off the ongoing trade negotiations if the Soviets conducted further offensives against Poland, but the threats were ignored by the Soviets.[26]

On 6 August 1920, the British Labour Party printed in a pamphlet that British workers would not take part in the war as Poland's allies. The labour unions blocked supplies to the expeditionary force assisting the Russian Whites in Arkhangelsk. The French Socialist Party declared in its newspaper L'Humanité: "Not a man, not a sou, not a shell for the reactionary and capitalist Poland. Long live the Russian Revolution! Long live the Workers' International!".[80] Poland also suffered from sabotage and delays in deliveries of war supplies when Czechoslovak and German workers refused to transit such materials to Poland.[26] On 6 August the Polish government issued an "Appeal to the World", which disputed the charges of Polish imperialism and stressed Poland's belief in self-determination and the dangers of a Bolshevik invasion of Europe.[93]

In summer 1919, Lithuania had been engaged in territorial disputes and armed skirmishes with Poland over the city of Vilnius and the areas around Sejny and Suwałki.[16] An August 1919 Piłsudski's attempt to take control of Lithuania by engineering a coup contributed to worsening of the relations.[16][94] The Soviet and Lithuanian governments signed on 12 July 1920 the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty; it recognised Vilnius as part of Lithuania.[95] The treaty contained a secret clause that allowed Soviet forces unrestricted movement in Lithuania during any Soviet war with Poland, which led to questions regarding Lithuanian neutrality during the ongoing Polish–Soviet War.[96][97] The Lithuanians also provided the Soviets with logistic support.[97] Following the treaty, the Red Army occupied Vilnius; the Soviets returned the city to Lithuanian control just before it was recaptured by Polish forces in late August.[16] Until then, the Soviets had encouraged their own communist government, the Litbel, and planned a communist coup in Lithuania.[98][99]

Soviet delegates arrive for armistice negotiations before the Battle of Warsaw, August 1920

Poland's allies were few. France continued its policy of countering Bolshevism; it sent to Poland an advisory group of four hundred members in 1919. It consisted mostly of French officers but included also a few British advisers led by Adrian Carton de Wiart. The French officers included Charles de Gaulle. During the Polish–Soviet War he won the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration. In addition to the Allied advisors, France facilitated the transit from France to Poland of General Józef Haller's "Blue Army" in 1919. The troops were mostly of Polish origin but included also international volunteers who had been under French command during World War I. Hungary offered to send a 30,000 cavalry corps to Poland's aid, but the Czechoslovak government refused to allow them through since there was a demilitarised zone on the borders after the Hungarian–Czechoslovak War. Some trains with weapon supplies from Hungary, however, did arrive in Poland.

In mid-1920, the Allied Mission was expanded and became the Interallied Mission to Poland. They included the French diplomat Jean Jules Jusserand; Maxime Weygand, chief of staff to supreme commander of the victorious Entente Marshal Ferdinand Foch; and the British diplomat Edgar Vincent. The new members of the mission made little impact on the war, but the crucial Battle of Warsaw had been fought and won by the Poles before the mission returned and made its report. Many in the West erroneously believed that it was the timely arrival of Allied forces that had saved Poland; Weygand occupied the central role in the myth that was created.[26][100]

The Polish-French co-operation continued, and French weaponry, including infantry armament, artillery and Renault FT tanks, were shipped to Poland to reinforce its military. On 21 February 1921, France and Poland agreed to a formal military alliance,[101] which became an important factor during the Soviet–Polish negotiations.

The Soviet emphasis had gradually shifted from promoting world revolution to dismantling the Treaty of Versailles system, which, in Lenin's words, was the treaty of the "triumphant world imperialism".[102] Lenin made remarks to that effect during the 9th Conference of the Russian Communist Party RKP(b), convened on 22–25 September 1920.[102][103] He repeatedly referred to the Soviet military defeat, for which he indirectly held himself largely responsible. Trotsky and Stalin, in turn, blamed each other for the war's outcome. Stalin sharply rebutted Lenin's accusations regarding Stalin's judgement ahead of the Battle of Warsaw.[102]

Battle of Warsaw

Polish propaganda poster. The text reads: "To arms! Save the fatherland! Remember well our future fate."

In early August 1920, Polish and Soviet delegations met at Baranavichy and exchanged notes, but their talks produced no results.[104]

According to the plan of the commander-in-chief of the Red Army Sergey Kamenev as of 20 July 1920, two Soviet fronts, western and southwestern, were going to execute a concentric attack on Warsaw. However, after consulting Tukhachevsky, he concluded that the western front alone could manage the occupation of Warsaw. The southwestern front was given the task of attacking Lwów. Accordingly (and in agreement with his own previously expressed views) Stalin, member of the Revolutionary Council of the southwestern front, directed Budyonny to unleash an assault on Lwów, aimed at taking the city (Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army was originally supposed to head north in the direction of Brest, to assist Tukhachevsky). Budyonny's forces fought in the Lwów area from August 19. In the meantime, already on August 11, Kamenev ordered the 1st Cavalry Army and the 12th Army of the southwestern front to proceed in the northern direction toward the western front area to fight there under Tukhachevsky's command. Kamenev repeated his order on 13 August, but Budyonny, following Stalin's directives, refused to obey. On 13 August, Tukhachevsky in vain pleaded with Kamenev to expedite the redirecting of both southwestern armies to his area of combat. Such circumstances led to a Soviet disadvantage as the crucial Battle of Warsaw was about to unfold.[105] Leon Trotsky interpreted Stalin's actions as insubordination, but the historian Richard Pipes asserts that Stalin "almost certainly acted on Lenin's orders" in not moving the forces to Warsaw.[106] According to Stalin's biographer Duraczyński, Stalin, despite his devotion to Lenin, displayed a great deal of initiative and boldness; unlike other Soviet officials, including Lenin, he had not become euphoric about the Soviet victories. However, he insisted on the exceptional importance of the activities of the southwestern front, which turned out to be costly for the Soviets.[105]

On 10 August 1920 Soviet Cossack units, commanded by Hayk Bzhishkyan, crossed the Vistula River. They planned to take Warsaw from the west, while the main attack came from the east. On 13 August, a Soviet assault on Warsaw (from the east) commenced. By August 16, the Polish 1st Army stopped the enemy at the Battle of Radzymin.[11][80]

The Soviet western front commander, Tukhachevsky, felt certain that all was going according to his plan. However, Polish military intelligence had decrypted the Red Army's radio messages,[107][108][109] and Tukhachevsky fell into a trap set by Piłsudski and the Polish chief of staff, Tadeusz Rozwadowski.[26] The Soviet advance across the Vistula River in the north moved into operational vacuum, as there were no sizable Polish forces in the area. On the other hand, south of Warsaw, where the fate of the war was about to be decided, Tukhachevsky had left only token forces to guard the vital link between the Soviet northwestern and southwestern fronts.

Polish soldiers display captured Soviet standards after the Battle of Warsaw

The Polish 5th Army, under General Władysław Sikorski, counterattacked on 14 August from the area of the Modlin fortress and crossed the Wkra River. It faced the combined forces of the Soviet 3rd and 15th Armies, which were numerically and materially superior. The Soviet advance toward Warsaw and Modlin was halted in one day and had soon turned into a retreat. Sikorski's 5th Army pushed the exhausted Soviet formations away from Warsaw in a lightning operation. The Polish forces advanced at a speed of 30 km a day and soon destroyed any Soviet hope of completing the enveloping manoeuvre in the north. By 16 August, the Polish counteroffensive had been joined by Piłsudski's "Reserve Army". Executing his plan, the Polish forces, advancing from Warsaw (Colonel Wrzaliński's group) and the south (Polish 3rd and 4 Armies), found a huge gap between the Soviet fronts and exploited the weakness of the Soviet "Mozyr Group", which was supposed to protect the weak link between the Soviet fronts. The Poles continued their northward offensive with two armies following and destroying the surprised enemy. They reached the rear of Tukhachevsky's forces, most of which were encircled by 18 August. At that time Tukhachevsky, at his headquarters in Minsk (480 km (300 mi) east of Warsaw), had become fully aware of the magnitude of the Soviet defeat and ordered the remnants of his armies to retreat and regroup. He hoped to straighten the front line, halt the Polish attack and regain the initiative, but his orders arrived too late or not at all.[80] The Soviet armies in the centre of the front fell into chaos. Tukhachevsky ordered a general retreat toward the Bug River but had lost contact with most of his forces near Warsaw. The Bolshevik plans had been thrown into further disarray by communication failures.[80] The Russian forces retreated in a disorganised fashion, with entire divisions panicking and disintegrating. Previously unknown documents from the Polish Central Military Archive showed in 2004 that the successful breaking of Red Army radio communication ciphers by Polish cryptographers played a great role in the victory (see Jan Kowalewski).[110]

To diminish Piłsudski's military achievement and his role in the saving of Warsaw, at the instigation of his Polish detractors, the Battle of Warsaw had been referred to as the "Miracle on the Vistula", and the phrase has since remained in popular use in Poland. The "miracle" was attributed to the Virgin Mary.[111]

Conclusion of military campaigns

Austin-Putilovets "Poznańczyk" near Bobruysk, Polish–Soviet War 1920

Semyon Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army's advance toward Lwów was halted at the Battle of Brody (29 July – 2 August) and on 17 August at the Battle of Zadwórze.[11] At Zadwórze, a small Polish force sacrificed itself to prevent Soviet cavalry from seizing Lwów and stopping vital Polish reinforcements from moving toward Warsaw. Moving through weakly defended areas, Budyonny's cavalry reached the city of Zamość on 29 August and attempted to take it at the Battle of Zamość,[11] but was soon faced by an increasing number of Polish units diverted from the successful Warsaw counteroffensive. On 31 August, Budyonny's cavalry finally broke off its siege of Lwów and attempted to come to the aid of Soviet forces retreating from Warsaw. The 1st Cavalry Army was intercepted and defeated by Polish cavalry at the Battle of Komarów near Zamość, one of the largest cavalry battles since 1813 and one of the last cavalry battles in history. Although Budyonny's army managed to avoid encirclement, it suffered heavy losses and its morale plummeted.[11] The remains of Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army retreated towards Volodymyr-Volynskyi on 6 September.[11]

Tukhachevsky reorganised the retreating forces and established in September a new defensive line running from the Polish–Lithuanian border in the north to Polesia, with a central point in the city of Grodno. The Polish Army broke the line at the Battle of the Niemen River. The Polish forces crossed the Niemen River and outflanked the Bolshevik forces, which had to retreat again.[11] Following the battle, the Poles continued to advance eastward on all fronts.[11] After the early October Battle of the Szczara River, the Polish Army had reached the Ternopil–Dubno–Minsk–Drissa line.

In the south, Petliura's Ukrainian forces defeated the Bolshevik 14th Army and, on 18 September, took control of the left bank of the Zbruch River. In October, they moved east to the Yaruha–Sharhorod–Bar–Lityn line.[112] They now numbered 23,000 soldiers and controlled territories immediately to the east of Polish-controlled areas. They had planned an offensive in Ukraine for 11 November but were attacked by the Bolsheviks on 10 November. By 21 November, after several battles, they were driven into Polish-controlled territory.[112]

Peace negotiations and outcome of the war

Polish anti-communist poster showing Leon Trotsky. The large caption reads "Bolshevik freedom". The small caption on the right-hand side reads: "The Bolsheviks promised: We'll give you peace. We'll give you freedom. We'll give you land, work and bread. Despicably they cheated. They started a war with Poland. Instead of freedom, they brought the fist. Instead of land, confiscation. Instead of work, misery. Instead of bread, famine".

Peace negotiations commenced in Minsk in mid-August 1920. Initially, the Soviets made harsh demands on Poland; their implementation would turn Poland into a Soviet-dependent state. After the Battle of Warsaw defeat, such condition were withdrawn and the negotiations were moved to Riga. As winter approached and there had not been a military resolution to the conflict (the Red Army, despite many defeats, had not been destroyed), both sides decided to stop fighting.[113]

The Preliminary Treaty of Peace and Armistice Conditions was signed on 12 October and the armistice went into effect on 18 October.[11][114] Ratifications were exchanged at Liepāja on 2 November. The peace treaty negotiations ensued and were concluded, between Poland on one side and Soviet Ukraine, Soviet Russia, and Soviet Belarus on the other, on 18 March 1921.[113] The Peace of Riga, signed on that day, divided the disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between Poland and the Soviet Union.[11][115][116]


Their losses during and after the Battle of Warsaw made the Soviets offer the Polish peace delegation substantial territorial concessions, including Minsk and other areas occupied by Polish forces.[16] Polish resources were also exhausted and Polish public opinion wanted a settlement.[26] The Polish government was pressured to settle by the League of Nations.

The negotiations were controlled by Roman Dmowski's National Democrats. The National Democrats cared little for Piłsudski's vision of the Intermarium coalition. Polish parliament (Sejm) was controlled by Dmowski's allies, whose ideas of the nature of the Polish state and of the arrangement of its borders had since permanently prevailed.[16]

The National Democrats, led at the Riga talks by Stanisław Grabski,[16] wanted only the territory they viewed as "ethnically or historically Polish" or, in their opinion, could be Polonised.[117] Despite the Red Army's defeat and the willingness of the chief Soviet negotiator, Adolph Joffe, to concede most the disputed areas,[118] the National Democratic politics allowed the Soviets to regain some of the territories acquired by the Polish armies during the campaign.[118] The National Democrats worried that Poland would not be able to control overly extended territories, dominated by national minorities; Grabski wanted lands where Poles could predominate.[16] The failed federalist orientation was represented at Riga by Piłsudski's associate, Leon Wasilewski.[16] In the long run, the National Democrats' scheme had not quite worked, because "the Riga settlement created a Poland which was too westerly to be a federation, but not westerly enough to remain a national state".[119] Poland ended up with the largest total percentage of ethnic minorities of any unitary state in interwar Europe (only about two thirds of Polish citizens considered themselves ethnically Polish or of Polish nationality).[120] Still, the refusal of the easternmost areas considered was beneficial to the National Democrats' electoral prospects.[119]

The resolution of the war had thus dealt a death blow to the Intermarium project.[26] The National Democrats did not care about the fate of Poland's Ukrainian ally, Petliura, and cared little for the concerns of their political opponent, Piłsudski, who felt honour-bound by his Ukrainian treaty obligations.[121]

The Peace of Riga was approved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on 14 April 1921, by Polish Sejm on April 15, and by the Central Executive Committee of Soviet Ukraine on April 17. Until late summer 1939, the Soviet Union refrained from officially questioning the Riga treaty settlement, but it had been understood that the Soviet policy objective was to have it overturned.[122]


The Treaty of Warsaw between Poland and the Directorate of Ukraine had been invalidated. The peace treaty partitioned Ukraine and gave a portion of its territory to Poland and the other portion to the Soviet Union. The treaty, which Piłsudski called an "act of cowardice",[121] violated the terms of Poland's military alliance with the Directorate of Ukraine, which had explicitly prohibited a separate peace.[64] Members of the Ukrainian faction that accepted the alliance with Poland and fought within that alliance, were now interned by the Polish authorities.[115] The internment worsened relations between the Polish state and its Ukrainian minority. Great resentment had been generated in the remaining interwar years because of repressive policies of Polish governments towards Ukrainians living in post-Riga Poland.[123]


Volunteers from Lwów serving in the Polish Army's 2nd Death's Squadron

On 11 July 1920 Soviet forces entered Minsk and on 1 August the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was officially established. Belarus, like Ukraine, was partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union after the Peace of Riga. The policies of the Byelorussian Soviet Republic were determined by Moscow.[124]

Belarusian activists regarded the Peace of Riga results a tragic betrayal. Without Minsk, Polish Belarusians were reduced to being a mostly rural, marginalized group. To many of them, the Soviet republic to the east seemed an attractive alternative. In 1922, the Soviet Union was established as a formal federation of republics. Its policy called for an eventual extension of the Byelorussian SSR, to include the Belarusian lands under Polish administration. The Communist Party of Western Belorussia, established in Poland, was under Soviet control. The territory of the Byelorussian SSR was extended to the east in 1923, 1924 and 1926 by lands taken from the Russian Republic. In contrast to the repressive Polish policies, in the 1920s the Soviet Union supported Belarusian culture; several major national institutions and thousands of Belarusian schools had been established. However, the official Belarusian progress was mostly destroyed under Joseph Stalin in the 1930s.[125]

Belarusian activists held a Congress of Representatives in Prague in the fall of 1921, to discuss the peace treaty and its consequences for Belarus. Vera Maslovskaya was sent there as the delegate of the Białystok area, and she proposed a resolution to fight for the unification of Belarus. She sought independence of all Belarusian lands and denounced the partition. Though the convention did not adopt a proposal instituting armed conflict, it passed Maslovskaya's proposal, which led to immediate retaliation from the Polish authorities. They infiltrated the underground network fighting for Belarusian unification and arrested the participants. Maslovskaya was arrested in 1922 and tried in 1923, along with 45 other participants, mostly peasants.[126][127] Among the arrested were also a sister and brother of Maslovskaya and several teachers and professionals. Maslovskaya accepted all responsibility for the underground organisation, but specifically stated that she was guilty of no crime, having acted only to protect the interests of Belarus against foreign occupiers, in a political and not military action. Unable to prove that the leaders had participated in armed rebellion, the court found them guilty of political crimes and sentenced to six years in prison.[128]


Pressured by the Entente powers, Poland and Lithuania signed the Suwałki Agreement on 7 October 1920; the armistice line left Vilnius on the Lithuanian side of the border. However, Polish military activities, especially the so-called Żeligowski's Mutiny launched two days after the Suwałki Agreement, allowed Poland to capture the Vilnius Region, where a Polish-dominated Governance Committee of Central Lithuania (Komisja Rządząca Litwy Środkowej) was formed.[16][22] A plebiscite was conducted; the Vilnius assembly voted for the city's incorporation into Poland on 20 February 1921 and Polish Sejm approved the annexation in March.[22] On 8 January 1922, the Polish military enforced local legislative elections, but they were boycotted by Jews, Belarusians and Lithuanians.[119] The Western powers condemned the Polish actions but on 15 March 1923 the Conference of Ambassadors, convinced of the desirability of geographical separation of Lithuania from the Soviet Union, approved Poland's eastern borders, as already determined by the League of Nations in early February (the Soviet Union rejected the granting of Vilnius to Poland).[22][122] Lithuania refused to comply; the events and the incorporation worsened Polish–Lithuanian relations for decades to come.[22] According to Alfred E. Senn, even though Lithuania lost territory to Poland, it was only the Polish victory against the Soviets in the Polish–Soviet War that derailed the Soviet plans for westward expansion and gave Lithuania the period of interwar independence.[129]


Latvia's fighting with the Bolsheviks ended with the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920. The Peace of Riga negotiations followed; it established a Polish-Latvian border in the area of Daugavpils. That same year Latvia passed a comprehensive land reform and in 1922 introduced a democratic constitution. The Warsaw Accord was signed by foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Poland on 17 March 1922. However, the Treaty of Rapallo effectively placed the Baltic states in the German and Soviet spheres of influence.[22]

War crimes and other controversies

The war and its aftermath resulted in controversies, such as the situation of prisoners of war of both sides,[9][130] treatment of the civilian population,[131][132][133] or the behaviour of some commanders, including Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz[134] and Vadim Yakovlev.[135] The alleged pogroms of Jews caused the United States to send a commission, led by Henry Morgenthau, to investigate the matter.[136]

Developments in military strategy

Graves of Polish soldiers killed during the Battle of Warsaw of 1920, Powązki Military Cemetery, Warsaw

The Polish–Soviet War influenced the Polish military doctrine, which, under Piłsudski's leadership, emphasised mobility of elite cavalry units.[26] It also influenced Charles de Gaulle, who was an instructor with the Polish Army who fought in several of the battles. He and Władysław Sikorski were the only notable military officers who, based on their experiences during the war, correctly predicted the importance of maneuver and mechanization in the next war. Although they had failed during the interwar period to convince their respective military establishments to heed those lessons, during World War II they rose to command of their respective armed forces in exile.[137]

Aftermath and legacy

Despite the final retreat of Soviet forces and the annihilation of three Soviet field armies, historians do not universally agree on the question of victory. Lenin spoke of a great military defeat suffered by Soviet Russia.[102] Sebestyen wrote: "The Poles heavily defeated and embarrassed the Soviet state – one of Lenin's biggest setbacks."[138] The conflict, however, is also viewed as a military victory for Poland coupled with political defeat. The countries envisioned by Piłsudski as members of Poland-led Intermarium federation had instead, under Lenin and Stalin, become incorporated into the Soviet Union. In the autumn of 1920, both combatants had realized that they could not win a decisive military victory. Internally, the newly reestablished Polish state had proved its viability, as an overwhelming majority of its people contributed to the defense of the country and turned out insensitive to Bolshevik appeals to join the revolution. As for the main protagonists, neither one was able to accomplish his principal objective. For Piłsudski it was to recreate in some form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and for Lenin to cause the downfall of the capitalist edifice in Europe by facilitating revolutionary processes in key states of the West.[111]

Russian and Polish historians tend to assign victory to their respective countries. Outside assessments vary mostly between calling the result a Polish victory or inconclusive. The Poles claimed a successful defence of their state, but the Soviets claimed a repulse of the Polish invasion of Ukraine and Belarus, which they viewed as a part of the foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War. Some British and American military historians argue that the Soviet failure to destroy the Polish Army ended Soviet ambitions for international revolution.[139][31][140][141]

With the end of the Polish–Soviet War and the 1920 defeat of Pyotr Wrangel, the White Army commander, the Red Army was able to divert its regular troops into the Tambov region of central Russia to crush the anti-Bolshevik peasant uprising there.[142]

In 1926, the Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact was signed. The Soviets renewed their recognition of the Lithuanian claim to the Vilnius area.[95] In 1939, after the Soviet invasion of Poland, Stalin gave Vilnius to Lithuania. In 1940, Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union as a Soviet republic. This arrangement, interrupted by the German occupation of Lithuania in 1941–44, had lasted until the restoration of Lithuanian independent state in 1990.[143] Under the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, Vilnius became a city dominated by ethnic Lithuanians.[144]

In 1943, during the course of World World II, the subject of Poland's eastern borders was reopened and was discussed at the Tehran Conference. Winston Churchill argued in favour of the 1920 Curzon Line, rather than the Peace of Riga borders, and an agreement among the Allies to that effect was reached at the Yalta Conference in 1945.[145] The Western Allies, despite having alliance treaties with Poland and despite the Polish contribution to the war, left Poland within the Soviet sphere of influence. The Allies allowed Poland to be compensated for the territorial losses in the east with the bulk of the former eastern territories of Germany. The post-war arrangement imposed had become known to many Poles as the Western betrayal.[146]

From the end of World War II until 1989, the communists held power in Poland, and the Polish–Soviet War was omitted or minimised in Polish and other Soviet Bloc countries' history books, or was presented as a foreign intervention during the Russian Civil War.[147]

Polish Lieutenant Józef Kowalski was the last living veteran of the war. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta on his 110th birthday by President Lech Kaczyński of Poland.[148] He died on 7 December 2013 at the age of 113.

See also

  • Cipher Bureau (Poland)
  • Polish–Ukrainian War
  • Soviet invasion of Poland
  • Germany–Soviet Union relations, 1918–1941


  1. Battle of Daugavpils
  2. In 1920
  1. Other names:
    • Polish: Wojna polsko-bolszewicka, wojna polsko-sowiecka, wojna polsko-rosyjska 1919–1921, wojna polsko-radziecka (Polish–Bolshevik War, Polish–Soviet War, Polish–Russian War 1919–1921)
    • Russian: Советско-польская война (Sovetsko-polskaya voyna, Soviet-Polish War), Польский фронт (Polsky front, Polish Front)
  2. See for instance Russo-Polish War in Encyclopædia Britannica
    "The conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Piłsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (21 April 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on 7 May."
  3. For example: 1) Cisek 1990 Sąsiedzi wobec wojny 1920 roku. Wybór dokumentów.
    2) Szczepański 1995 Wojna 1920 roku na Mazowszu i Podlasiu
    3) Sikorski 1991 Nad Wisłą i Wkrą. Studium do polsko–radzieckiej wojny 1920 roku


  1. Davies 2003, p. 39
  2. Davies 2003, p. 142
  3. Davies 2003, p. 41
  4. Davies, White Eagle..., Polish edition, pp. 162, 202.
  5. Rudolph J. Rummel (1990). Lethal politics: Soviet genocide and mass murder since 1917. Transaction Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-56000-887-3. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  6. NDAP 2004 Official Polish government note about 2004 Rezmar, Karpus and Matveev book.
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  11. (in Polish) Wojna polsko-bolszewicka Archived 11 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Entry at Internetowa encyklopedia PWN. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  12. Davies 2003, p. 22
  13. (in Russian)"Соединение последовало явно в ущерб Литве, которая должна была уступить Польше Подляхию, Волынь и княжество Киевское", Соловьев С. "История России с древнейших времен", ISBN 978-5-17-002142-0, т.6, сс. 814–815
  14. Wandycz, Piotr S. (1974). "Part Two: The Age of Insurrections, 1830–64". The lands of partitioned Poland, 1795–1918. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0295953588.
  15. Историк: 'В 1863 году белорусы поддержали не Польшу и Калиновского, а Россию и государя' [Historian: 'In 1863, Belarusians did not support Poland and Kalinowski, but Russia and its sovereign']. regnum.by (in Russian). 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  16. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 60–65, Yale University Press, New Haven @ London 2003, ISBN 978-0-300-10586-5.
  17. Fraser & Dunn 1996, p. 2
  18. Jukes, Simkins & Hickey 2002, pp. 84, 85
  19. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], p. 111. Akademia Humanistyczna im. Aleksandra Gieysztora, Pułtusk-Warszawa 2012, ISBN 978-83-7549-150-0.
  20. Edward Mandell House; Charles Seymour (1921). What Really Happened at Paris. Scribner. p. 84. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 1919 curzon december ethnographic.
  21. Antoni Czubiński, "Historia Polski XX wieku" [The history of 20th Century Poland], p. 113. Wydawnictwo Nauka i Innowacje, Poznań 2012, ISBN 978-83-63795-01-6.
  22. Zgórniak, Marian; Łaptos, Józef; Solarz, Jacek (2006). Wielka historia świata, tom 11, wielkie wojny XX wieku (1914–1945) [The Great History of the World, vol. 11: Great Wars of the 20th century (1914–1945)], pp. 180–187. Kraków: Fogra. ISBN 83-60657-00-9.
  23. Davies 2003, p. 21
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  25. Adrian Hyde-Price (2001). Germany and European Order: Enlarging NATO and the EU. Manchester University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7190-5428-0. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
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  28. Richard Pipes, David Brandenberger, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, The unknown Lenin: from the secret archive, Yale University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-300-07662-2, Google Print, pp. 6–7
  29. Peter J. Boettke (1990). The Political Economy of Soviet Socialism: the Formative Years, 1918–1928. Springer. pp. 92–93. ISBN 978-0-7923-9100-5. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  30. E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution; Volume 3, p. 165, London: Macmillan ISBN 0333060040
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    Released in Nov. 1918, [Pilsudski] returned to Warsaw, assumed command of the Polish armies, and proclaimed an independent Polish republic, which he headed. (Piłsudski, Joseph Archived 20 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine in Columbia Encyclopedia)
  33. Timothy Snyder, Covert Polish missions across the Soviet Ukrainian border, 1928–1933 (p. 55, p. 56, p. 57, p. 58, p. 59, in Cofini, Silvia Salvatici (a cura di), Rubbettino, 2005).
    Timothy Snyder, Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine, Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-300-10670-1, (p. 41, p. 42, p. 43)
  34. "[Pilsudski] hoped to incorporate most of the territories of the defunct Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into the future Polish state by structuring it as the Polish-led, multinational federation."
    Aviel Roshwald, "Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, the Middle East and Russia, 1914–1923", p. 37, Routledge (UK), 2001, ISBN 978-0-415-17893-8
  35. "Although the Polish premier and many of his associates sincerely wanted peace, other important Polish leaders did not. Josef Pilsudski, chief of state and creator of Polish army, was foremost among the latter. Pilsudski hoped to build not merely a Polish nation state but a greater federation of peoples under the aegis of Poland, which would replace Russia as the great power of Eastern Europe. Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine were all to be included. His plan called for a truncated and vastly reduced Russia, a plan that excluded negotiations prior to military victory."
    Richard K Debo, Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918–192, Google Print, p. 59, McGill-Queen's Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-7735-0828-6.
  36. "Pilsudski's program for a federation of independent states centered on Poland; in opposing the imperial power of both Russia and Germany it was in many ways a throwback to the romantic Mazzinian nationalism of Young Poland in the early nineteenth century. But his slow consolidation of dictatorial power betrayed the democratic substance of those earlier visions of national revolution as the path to human liberation"
    James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men, p. 432, Transaction Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7658-0471-6
  37. "Pilsudski dreamed of drawing all the nations situated between Germany and Russia into an enormous federation in which Poland, by virtue of its size, would be the leader, while Dmowski wanted to see a unitary Polish state, in which other Slav peoples would become assimilated."
    Andrzej Paczkowski, The Spring Will Be Ours: Poland and the Poles from Occupation to Freedom, p. 10, Penn State Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-271-02308-3
  38. John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, W.W. Norton & Company, 2001, ISBN 978-0-393-02025-0, Google Print, p. 194
  39. Zbigniew Brzezinski in his introduction to Wacław Jędrzejewicz's "Pilsudski A Life For Poland" wrote: "Pilsudski's vision of Poland, paradoxically, was never attained. He contributed immensely to the creation of a modern Polish state, to the preservation of Poland from the Soviet invasion, yet he failed to create the kind of multinational commonwealth, based on principles of social justice and ethnic tolerance, to which he aspired in his youth. One may wonder how relevant was his image of such a Poland in the age of nationalism..."
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  42. One month before his death, Pilsudski told his aide: "My life is lost. I failed to create a Ukraine free from the Russians"
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  43. MacMillan, Margaret, Paris 1919 : Six Months That Changed the World, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003, ISBN 978-0-375-76052-5, p. 212"
  44. Pipes, Richard (1997). Russia under the Bolshevik Regime 1919–1924. Harvill. ISBN 978-1-86046-338-9.
  45. Antoni Czubiński, "Historia Polski XX wieku" [The history of 20th Century Poland], p. 112.
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  48. Grzegorz Nowik (2004). Zanim złamano Enigmę: Polski radiowywiad podczas wojny z bolszewicką Rosją 1918–1920 [Before Enigma was Broken: Polish radio-intelligence during the war against Bolshevik Russia 1918–1920]. Warsaw, RYTM Oficyna Wydawnicza. ISBN 978-83-7399-099-9.
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  64. Richard K Debo, Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918–1921, pp. 210–211, McGill-Queen's Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-7735-0828-6.
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  72. Krivosheev, Grigoriy F. (1997) [1993]. "Table 7: Average Monthly Personal Strength of Fronts and Independent Armies in 1920". Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. p. 17. Numerical strength [Commanders/NCOs and men/Total]: 7th Independent Army: 13,583/141,070/154,653; Western Front: 26,272/355,799/382,071; South-Western Front: 17,231/265,276/282,507; Southern Front (against Wrangel): 26,576/395,731/422,307; Caucasian Front: 32,336/307,862/340,198; Turkestan Front: 10,688/150,167/160,855; 5th Independent Army: 9,432/104,778/114,210. // All numbers for the months July–August, except for Southern Front (against Wrangel), which is for the month of October.
  73. Davies, White Eagle..., Polish edition, p. 85.
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  90. Piotr Stefan Wandycz (1962). France and her eastern allies, 1919–1925: French-Czechoslovak-Polish relations from the Paris Peace Conference to Locarno. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 154–156. ISBN 978-0-8166-5886-2. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
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  94. Roy Francis Leslie (1983). The History of Poland Since 1863. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-27501-9. Lithuanian nationalism was fundamentally anti-Polish in character and Polish–Lithuanian relations deteriorated still further in August 1919 as a result of an attempted coup by the Polish Military Organization (POW) aimed at placing a pro-Polish government in power at Kaunas (Kovno).
  95. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, p. 78.
  96. Łossowski, Piotr (2001). Litwa (in Polish). Warszawa: TRIO. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-83-85660-59-0.
  97. Łossowski, Piotr (1995). Konflikt polsko-litewski 1918–1920 (in Polish). Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza. pp. 126–128. ISBN 978-83-05-12769-1.
  98. Eidintas, Alfonsas; Vytautas Žalys; Alfred Erich Senn (1999). Ed. Edvardas Tuskenis (ed.). Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–1940 (Paperback ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 72–74. ISBN 978-0-312-22458-5.
  99. Senn, Alfred Erich (September 1962). "The Formation of the Lithuanian Foreign Office, 1918–1921". Slavic Review. 3 (21): 500–507. doi:10.2307/3000451. JSTOR 3000451.
  100. (in Polish) Janusz Szczepański, Kontrowersje Wokol Bitwy Warszawskiej 1920 Roku (Controversies surrounding the Battle of Warsaw in 1920). Mówią Wieki, online version.
  101. Edward Grosek, The Secret Treaties of History, XLIBRIS CORP, 2004, ISBN 978-1-4134-6745-1, p. 170
  102. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], pp. 119–122.
  103. At a closed meeting of the 9th Conference of the Russian Communist Party on 22 September 1920, Lenin said, "We confronted the question: whether [...] to take advantage of the enthusiasm in our army and the advantage which we enjoyed to sovietize Poland... the defensive war against imperialism was over, we won it... We could and should take advantage of the military situation to begin an offensive war... we should poke about with bayonets to see whether the socialist revolution of the proletariat had not ripened in Poland... that somewhere near Warsaw lies not [only] the center of the Polish bourgeois government and the republic of capital, but the center of the whole contemporary system of international imperialism, and that circumstances enabled us to shake that system, and to conduct politics not in Poland but in Germany and England. In this manner, in Germany and England we created a completely new zone of proletarian revolution against global imperialism... By destroying the Polish army we are destroying the Versailles Treaty on which nowadays the entire system of international relations is based.....Had Poland become Soviet....the Versailles Treaty ...and with it the whole international system arising from the victories over Germany, would have been destroyed."
    English translation quoted from Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, New York, 1993, pp. 181–182, with some stylistic modification in par 3, line 3, by A. M. Cienciala. This document was first published in a Russian historical periodical, Istoricheskii Arkhiv, vol. I, no. 1., Moscow,1992 and is cited through The Rebirth of Poland. University of Kansas, lecture notes by professor Anna M. Cienciala, 2004. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  104. Isaac Babel (2002). 1920 Diary. Yale University Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-300-09313-1.
  105. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], pp. 113–117.
  106. Richard Pipes (1999). The unknown Lenin: from the secret archive. Yale University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-300-07662-2.
  107. (in Polish) Ścieżyński, Mieczysław, [Colonel of the (Polish) General Staff], Radjotelegrafja jako źrodło wiadomości o nieprzyjacielu (Radiotelegraphy as a Source of Intelligence on the Enemy), Przemyśl, [Printing and Binding Establishment of (Military) Corps District No. X HQ], 1928, 49 pp.
  108. (in Polish) Paweł Wroński, "Sensacyjne odkrycie: Nie było cudu nad Wisłą" ("A Remarkable Discovery: There Was No Miracle at the Vistula"), Gazeta Wyborcza, wiadomosci.gazeta.pl.
  109. Jan Bury, Polish Codebreaking During the Russo-Polish War of 1919–1920,
  110. Grzegorz Nowik, "Zanim złamano Enigmę. Polski radiowywiad podczas wojny z bolszewicką Rosją 1918–1920", 2004, ISBN 978-83-7399-099-9
  111. Brian Porter-Szűcs, Poland in the World: Beyond Martyrdom, pp. 82–84, Wiley-Blackwell 2014, ISBN 978-1-4443-3219-3.
  112. Kubijovic, V. (1963). Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  113. Czesław Brzoza, Polska w czasach niepodległości i II wojny światowej (1918–1945) [Poland in Times of Independence and World War II (1918–1945)], Fogra, Kraków 2003, ISBN 83-85719-61-X, pp. 33–34.
  114. Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 4, pp. 8–45.
  115. Snyder, op cit, Google Print, p. 140
  116. Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 6, pp. 52–169.
  117. Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman, Elisabeth Glaser, The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-521-62132-8, Google Print, p. 314
  118. Norman Davies, God's Playground. Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present. Columbia University Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0-231-05352-5. Google Print, p. 504
  119. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 68–69.
  120. Brian Porter-Szűcs, Poland in the World: Beyond Martyrdom, p. 126.
  121. Norman Davies, God's Playground. Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present. Columbia University Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0-231-05352-5. Google Print, p. 399
  122. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], pp. 122–123.
  123. Snyder, op cit, Google Books, p. 144
  124. Savchenko, Andrew (2009). Belarus: A Perpetual Borderland. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. p. 77. ISBN 978-90-04-17448-1.
  125. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 65–68.
  126. Hardzienka, Aleh; Gapova, Elena (translator) (2006). "Matejczuk, Vera (1896–1981)". In de Haan, Francisca; Daskalova, Krassimira; Loutfi, Anna (eds.). Biographical dictionary of women's movements and feminisms in Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe: 19th and 20th centuries. Budapest, Hungary: Central European University Press. pp. 316–318. ISBN 978-9-637-32639-4 via Project MUSE.
  127. Туронок (Turonok), Юрий (Yuri) (2011). Непокорная Вера [Untamed Faith (Vera)]. Pawet (in Belarusian). Lida, Belarus. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
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  129. Alfred Erich Senn, "The Formation of the Lithuanian Foreign Office, 1918–1921", Slavic Review, Vol. 21, No. 3. (Sep. 1962), pp. 500–507: "A Bolshevik victory over the Poles would have certainly meant a move by the Lithuanian communists, backed by the Red Army, to overthrow the Lithuanian nationalist government.... Kaunas, in effect, paid for its independence with the loss of Vilna".
    Alfred Erich Senn, Lietuvos valstybes... p. 163: '"If the Poles didn't stop the Soviet attack, Lithuania would fell to the Soviets... Polish victory costs the Lithuanians the city of Vilnius, but saved Lithuania itself">
    Antanas Ruksa, Kovos del Lietuvos nepriklausomybes, t. 3, p. 417: "In summer 1920 Russia was working on a communist revolution in Lithuania.... From this disaster Lithuania was saved by the miracle at Vistula".
    Jonas Rudokas, Józef Piłsudski – wróg niepodległości Litwy czy jej wybawca? Archived 11 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine (Polish translation of a Lithuanian article) "Veidas", 25 08 2005: [Piłsudski] "defended both Poland and Lithuania from Soviet domination"
  130. (in Polish) Karpus, Zbigniew, Jeńcy i internowani rosyjscy i ukraińscy na terenie Polski w latach 1918–1924 Toruń 1997, ISBN 978-83-7174-020-6. English translation available: Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War and Internees in Poland, 1918–1924, Wydawn. Adam Marszałek, 2001, ISBN 978-83-7174-956-8
  131. Мельтюхов, Михаил Иванович (Mikhail Meltyukhov) (2001). Советско-польские войны. Военно-политическое противостояние 1918–1939 гг. [Soviet-Polish Wars. Political and Military standoff of 1918–1939]. Moscow: Вече (Veche). ISBN 978-5-699-07637-6. Retrieved 29 October 2010. (in Russian).
  132. "Having burst through the front, Budyonny's cavalry would devastate the enemy's rear – burning, killing and looting as they went. These Red cavalrymen inspired an almost numbing sense of fear in their opponents [...] the very names Budyonny and Cossack terrified the Ukrainian population, and they moved into a state of neutrality or even hostility toward Petliura and the Poles..."
    from Richard Watt, 1979. Bitter Glory: Poland and its fate 1918–1939. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-22625-1
  133. Courtois, Stéphane; Werth, Nicolas; Panne, Jean-Louis; Paczkowki, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis (1999). The Black Book of Communism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-07608-2
  134. (in Russian) Станислав Никодимович Булак-Балахович at modern Russian pro-White movement All-Russian military Union site. Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  135. Isaac Babel, 1920 Diary, p. 84, Yale, 2002, ISBN 978-0-300-09313-1
  136. Joanna Beata Michlic, Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present, University of Nebraska Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8032-3240-2 Google Print, p. 118
  137. Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978, ch, 5.
  138. Victor Sebestyen, Lenin: The Man, The Dictator, and the Master of Terror, p. 45.
  139. Fuller, J.F.C., The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Hunter Publishing, ISBN 0-586-08036-8.
  140. Davies, Norman, White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20, Pimlico, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7126-0694-3. (First edition: New York, St. Martin's Press, inc., 1972.) p. ix.
  141. Aleksander Gella, Development of Class Structure in Eastern Europe: Poland and Her Southern Neighbors, SUNY Press, 1988, ISBN 978-0-88706-833-1, Google Print, p. 23
  142. Singleton, Seth (September 1966). "The Tambov Revolt (1920–1921)". Slavic Review. 25 (3): 497–512. doi:10.2307/2492859. JSTOR 2492859.
  143. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, p. 72.
  144. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 90–98.
  145. Smith, Stanley. "Winston Churchill and Eastern Europe" (PDF). Finest Hour. The Churchill Centre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 July 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
  146. Betrayed by the Big Three
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  148. "Letter on the occasion of Józef Kowalskis 110:th birthday" (in Polish). President's office, Poland. Retrieved 30 March 2010.

Further reading

  • Dąbrowski, Stanisław. "The Peace Treaty of Riga." The Polish Review (1960) 5#1: 3-34. Online
  • Babel', Isaak Emmanuilovich (2003). Babel, Nathalie; Constantine, Peter (translator) (eds.). Red Cavalry [Конармия]. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-32423-5. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  • Davies, Norman Richard (2003) [1972]. White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20 (New ed.). New York: Pimlico / Random House Inc. ISBN 978-0-7126-0694-3.
  • Fiddick, Thomas C., "The 'Miracle of the Vistula': Soviet Policy versus Red Army Strategy", The Journal of Modern History, vol. 45, no. 4 (Dec. 1973), pp. 626–643.
  • Fiddick, Thomas C. Russia's Retreat from Poland, 1920, Macmillan Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-333-51940-0
  • Materski, Wojciech. "The Second Polish Republic in Soviet Foreign Policy (1918–1939)." Polish Review 45.3 (2000): 331–345. online
  • Ponichtera, Robert M. and David R. Stone, "The Russo-Polish War", The Military History of the Soviet Union New York, Palgrave, 2002, ISBN 978-0-312-29398-7.
  • Wandycz, Piotr, "General Weygand and the Battle of Warsaw", Journal of Central European Affairs, 1960.
  • Watt, Richard M., Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918–1939, New York, Hippocrene Books, 1998, ISBN 978-0-7818-0673-2.
  • Zamoyski, Adam. 0-00-722552-0 Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe. Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN 978-0-00-722552-1


  • Cisek, Janusz (1990). Sąsiedzi wobec wojny 1920 roku. Wybór dokumentów. (transl. Neighbors Attitude Towards the War of 1920. A collection of documents.). London: Polish Cultural Foundation Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85065-212-3.
  • Czubiński, Antoni, Walka o granice wschodnie Polski w latach 1918–1921 (Fighting for eastern borders of Poland in 1918–1921), Instytut Śląski w Opolu, Opole, 1993
  • Drozdzowski, Marian Marek (ed.), Międzynarodowe aspekty wojny polsko-bolszewickiej, 1919–1920. Antologia tekstów historycznych (International aspects of the Polish-Bolshevik War, 1919–1920. Anthology of historical texts.), Instytut Historii PAN, 1996, ISBN 978-83-86417-21-6
  • Golegiewski, Grzegorz, Obrona Płocka przed bolszewikami, 18–19 sierpnia 1920 r. (Defence of Płock from the Bolsheviks, 18–19 August 1920), NOVUM, 2004, ISBN 978-83-89416-43-8
  • Kawalec Tadeusz, Historia IV-ej Dywizji Strzelców Generała Żeligowskiego w zarysie (History of 4th Rifleman Division of General Żeligowki in brief), Gryf, 1993, OCLC 32178695.
  • Konieczny, Bronisław, Moje życie w mundurze. Czasy narodzin i upadku II RP (My life in the uniform. Times of the birth and fall of the Second Polish Republic), Księgarnia Akademicka, 2005 ISBN 978-83-7188-693-5
  • Kopański, Tomasz Jan, 16 (39-a) Eskadra Wywiadowcza 1919–1920 (16th (39th) Scouting Escadrille 1919–1920), Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, 1994, ISBN 978-83-901733-5-1
  • Kukiel, Marian, Moja wojaczka na Ukrainie. Wiosna 1920 (My fighting in Ukraine. Spring 1920), Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, 1995, ISBN 978-83-85621-74-4
  • Łukowski, Grzegorz, Walka Rzeczpospolitej o kresy północno-wschodnie, 1918–1920. Polityka i dzialania militarne. (Rzeczpospolita's fight for the northeastern borderlands, 1918–1920. Politics and military actions.), Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Adama Mickiewicza, Poznań, 1994, ISBN 978-83-232-0614-9
  • Pruszyński, Mieczysław, Dramat Piłsudskiego: Wojna 1920 (The drama of Piłsudski: War of 1920), Polska Oficyna Wydawnicza BGW, 1995, ISBN 978-83-7066-560-9
  • Odziemkowski, Janusz, Leksykon Wojny Polsko-Rosyjskiej 1919–1920 (Lexicon of Polish-Russian War 1919–1920), Rytm, 2004, ISBN 978-83-7399-096-8
  • Rozstworowski, Stanisław (ed.), Listy z wojny polsko-bolszewickiej (Letters from the Polish-Bolshevik War), Adiutor, 1995, ISBN 978-83-86100-11-8
  • Sikorski, Władysław (1991) [1928]. Nad Wisłą i Wkrą. Studium do polsko–radzieckiej wojny 1920 roku (transl. At Vistula and Wkra: Study of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920) (latest ed.). Warsaw: Agencja Omnipress. ISBN 978-83-85028-15-4.
  • Szczepański, Janusz (1995). Wojna 1920 na Mazowszu i Podlasiu (transl. War of 1920 in Mazovia and Podolia). Wyższa Szkoła Humanistyczna / Gryf. ISBN 978-83-86643-30-1.


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